Posts filed under ‘Television’

REVIEW – IBM “Smarter Math” Commercial

Title: Smarter Math
Media Type: Commercial and Website
Primary Subject: Math

Just caught this commercial for the first time while watching TV. Apparently it has been around awhile as the date on the YouTube link is 6 months old. I’m not a math teacher myself but I do teach AVID and deal with math in there regularly. Even I get the constant “Why do I need to know this stuff?” question. This commercial aims to answer that question.

There is a website to go along with the campaign here:

It has a podcast along with some additional information that may be worth checking out.

Motivational Potential:
Let me just say that if there was a history version of this commercial I’d use it and use it often in my classes. It is short, rapid-fire, and to the point. There is no chance for the kids to get bored as it ends as soon as it gets going. That, however, is my one complaint, the commercial is so quickly paced that it can be hard to get the impact. It will require multiple viewings and analysis to get the full effect. Still, I’d definitely go for it if I were a math teacher. You can’t deny the impact of telling kids that math can solve financial crisis, predict mutations, etc. This is powerful stuff.

Educational Potential:
You won’t be teaching any math from this unless you visit the accompanying website. Once there it is fairly high-level stuff and doesn’t really teach it so much as show how it might be used. I’m not putting down this resource in any way by rating it as such – it just isn’t for teaching content.

I’ll be using this with my AVID kids no doubt. If I were a math teacher I’d use it regularly. A fantastic resource though not as awesome as Old Navy’s 2004 History commercial (ha, we still win!). Highly recommended, check it out.


June 25, 2009 at 12:40 am Leave a comment

RESOURCE: The Simpsons Archive (

One of my plans for this blog is to slowly (very slowly…) go through and review the seasons of The Simpsons for their educational opportunities. I personally use tons of clips from the show in my lectures throughout the year. For someone like me who is a Simpsons junkie this is fairly simple. I can proudly (sadly?) quote just about every line from every episode from the first 10 seasons and pretty well from the next five too.  However, even I have had life catch up with me. The last five seasons or so I simply have not kept up.

There is, however, an answer! The Simpsons Archive located at is one of the best resources for teachers looking for media I’ve ever found. In short it is a searchable Simpsons episode guide.  There are quite a few of these online but none that I’ve found are nearly as comprehensive. You can type in any word or topic you want and the descriptions are thoroughly searched (the search bar is hidden at the bottom of the page.)

Perhaps even better are the user generated lists under the FAQs, Guides, and Lists tab.  There is, for example, a list of all references to American presidents ever to appear on the show at This list alone is many pages long.  There are also lists for religion and music references on the show among many, many others. Clicking on the individual episode will tell you what season it appeared in as well as the episode title making it very easy to hunt down the desired DVD.

So, if you’re looking for that one little video clip to spice up a lecture or one to really close one out memorably check out this great resource.

June 13, 2009 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

REVIEW: Deadliest Warrior

Title: Deadliest Warrior
Media type: Television
Primary subject: World History
Other subjects: Science (physics)

Deadliest Warrior ( is a 1-hour show on the Spike TV cable network. It kind of came out of nowhere and has ended up surprisingly popular. Spike is a very much a male-centered network and this show is no different.  It has a very simple premise. Take two warriors from different areas or time periods and using very fancy technology simulate which would win in a battle. It involves a weapon by weapon breakdown of each warrior followed by a violent, re-enacted (or perhaps just “enacted” since it never happened?) battle. They often also have short historical background pieces on the warriors.  Episodes of the first season included Spartan vs. Ninja, Pirate vs. Knight and Samurai vs. Viking among others.

The show has very high production values in just about every way.  The tests are convincing for the most part and the acted sequences would rival any Hollywood production. The show, while mature, is without a doubt educational but with a definite “cool” factor to it.  You won’t find many shows that have lines like “dude, that guy is way dead” and “we use this accelerometer to track full movement in 3d space to compare force and speed” in the same episode but you certainly will here.

Motivational Potential:


Misses being a 5 only because it is so male-centric. That’s not to say girls won’t enjoy it just that certainly some won’t.  Otherwise, it is very interesting to students.  In fact, it was a student who first introduced me to the show.  Every Wednesday I’d have kids running in to talk about the latest episode. I’ve had them run in and ask if I’ve bought the latest Halo game but this hasn’t ever happened before with a show so heavily built on historical content.

The show focuses on the most interesting aspects of some of the most interesting characters in history, you can’t ask for much more than that. Even the science content is interesting due to the way it is used in context. You may not find many cases where kids are particularly interested in momentum, velocity and motion but this show will certainly help.

Educational Potential:


This is very hard to rate. In small bursts there is some very good content here.  That said, out of a 12 episode season I showed roughly 15 minutes in class.  In large part I didn’t show much because of the violent content.  In some cases scenes are easily edited but in others there’s simply no way of making it classroom appropriate. The violence is all simulated but even then can tend to be very gory.

Appropriateness aside there is still a weakness in that most of the content of the show is never going to show up on any state tests.  While the knight’s use of a morning star is awfully cool it isn’t necessarily all that important. As I said there are short historical background pieces in each episode that are, however, very useful for the classroom in large part due to their slick production values. This show would easily find home on Discovery or The History Channel and it is not their fault that state tests don’t cover the material. It is an educational documentary series just dressed up really, really well.


I’m very glad I found this show. It appeals to both the history AND technology geek in me but in a cool way.  I’m eager to see what a second season will bring. I will get my dream match of a Roman Soldier vs. A Mayan? I’m not sure where else the show can go from here given all the match ups already played out (maybe a tournament of champions?) but it is exciting nonetheless. To see history presented as something for the popular culture to care about is a wonderful thing and thanks to the creators of the show for helping out!

June 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment


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